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Getting Started at UC San Diego

Learn about necessary and recommended steps to a smooth start in your life at UCSD.

Mandatory Orientation

All new international students in F-1 or J-1 status are required to attend International Student Orientation.. Please see the International Student Orientation page for details regarding which date you must attend.

Important note, all undergraduate degree seeking students must attend their College Orientation, in addition to the International Student Orientation. Graduate students are encouraged to attend the Office of Graduate Studies and department orientations.

Prior to the International Student Orientation, you are required to complete the iTriton Online Training program that can be accessed here

UC San Diego E-mail and Printing Accounts

Every UC San Diego student is assigned a UC San Diego email account.  To activate your account, you may either:

  • Visit Academic Computing Services (ACS) Applied Physics & Mathematics Building (AP&M) in Room 2113, or
  • Visit the ACS website and follow the directions. A Personal Identification Number (PID) is necessary to receive an e-mail account.
    • A PID is not the same as an application ID.
    • PID is usually the letter A followed by 8 digits. Use your application ID to login through TritonLink to receive a PID.  

To set up a Laser Printing Account, follow the instructions at the Laser Printing Account Setup website. You may create an account or add funds to an existing account. The laser account will automatically be attached to the current ACS login account(s) and any future ACS accounts you obtain.

UC San Diego Course Registration

EAP Reciprocity Students:

Enroll in classes via TritonLink. Students must have their PID (Personal Identification) number to enroll in courses. To obtain a PID, go to MyApplication and click on First Time User?” to complete the required personal information for your student account.

Your UC application ID number is located in your UC application acknowledgement letter. Meet with an academic advisor if you need assistance with selecting courses. Campus fees are automatically waived. If you receive a bill, contact Ruby Rosas, the EAP Coordinator, at rrosas@ucsd.edu.

Undergraduate Students:

Enroll in classes via TritonLink. Meet with an academic advisor if you need assistance with selecting courses. You are not required to visit your academic advisor before registering for classes.

Graduate Students:

To access Web Registration (WebReg) and a variety of other TritonLink online tools you will need a User ID and password. You should have already received your User ID which is the Personal Identification (PID) number stated on the application status page of the online application https://gradapply.ucsd.edu/. With your User ID you can now create your password. To create your password, visit https://www-act.ucsd.edu/manage-sso/applicant.

UC San Diego Student Campus Card

Upon arrival at UC San Diego, obtain a UC San Diego photo ID card. During orientation, the ISPO staff will also assist students in getting their ID cards as needed.

It may be necessary to show an ID card to receive services at the university.

Campus ID cards are processed Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (hours may change during the summer) at Student Business Services in the Student Services Center, Suite 355.


ISPO News is a listserv that provides important information to UC San Diego international students, professors, scholars, and dependents temporarily residing in the USA. ISPO News also announces critical deadlines, changes in regulations, and offers concrete advice.

UC San Diego email addresses are automatically subscribed to the ISPO listserv and all students are responsible for checking their UC San Diego email account. Please note that all important campus messaging is communicated mainly through UC San Diego email.


We welcome you to join our Facebook group called International Students and Program Office (ISPO).

Here are some ideas of how you can use this site:

  • Ask advisors questions about your status
  • Ask your peers about classes and professors
  • Read about new US immigration regulations
  • Learn about events and activities sponsored by the UC San Diego International Center
  • Post a request for a roommate
  • Start a discussion about where to shop or where to eat near UC San Diego
  • Post an item you want to sell
  • All ISPO group members have access to these postings so they can respond to your requests or add comments to your listings. 

We hope you will join our Facebook group. To access the website, you will need to establish a Facebook account by creating a username and password and join the UC San Diego network by using your UC San Diego email address. 

Afterwards, you can enter information about yourself. However we strongly advise you to protect your personal information and privacy. For more information about protecting your privacy online, visit Blink’s Online Communities: Protecting Your Privacy.

Social Security Card

To learn how to apply for a Social Security Card, please visit our Social Security Number information page.

California Driver's License

Sample drivers licenseThe State of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles does not recognize international drivers’ licenses. The State of California, however, does recognize your national driver license as long as it is valid and translated to English. Although the law is ambiguous when dealing with international visitors, we recommend that you get a California driver’s license if you are in California over 2 months. Keep in mind that automobile insurance is required by law in the United States. Most insurance companies require a valid California driver’s license.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires a written test and a road test. No appointment is necessary for the written test, but an appointment and a car are required for the road test.

Temporary permits can be renewed until the card is received.

The closest DMV Office to UC San Diego is located in Clairemont:
4375 Derrick Drive
San Diego, CA 92117

For other DMV locations or more information call (800) 777-0133 or visit the DMV website.

Note: The DMV is often crowded, so allow ample time to complete the process.  We recommend making an appointment on the DMV website.

Driving Schools

There are driving schools in San Diego. Check the Yellow Pages under “Driving Instruction” to locate driving schools or search the Internet with the search term “Driving Schools San Diego"

Application process

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires a written test and a road test. No appointment is necessary for the written test, but an appointment and a car are required for the road test. A U.S. Social Security card is not needed to apply for a driver license. The DMV is often crowded, so allow ample time to complete the process. Appointments are also available online through DMV’s online services.

Temporary permits can be renewed until the license is received.

Where to apply

For a complete list of DMV office locations, visit the department’s homepage.

The closest DMV Office to UC San Diego is located at:

Department of Motor Vehicles (closest to campus)
4375 Derrick Drive
San Diego, CA 92117
(800) 777-0133

Banking and Money Matters

In the United States, it is customary to use checks and debit/credit cards rather than using cash because it is easier and safer. It is best to open an account at a bank so that money can be taken out of the account when needed. It is not safe to carry large amounts of cash.

Most banks are open Monday through Friday from morning until mid-afternoon, and some are open also on Saturday morning. Upon opening an account, a debit card will be offered so you can withdraw money from automated teller machines (ATMs). A few ATMs are located behind the Price Center on campus and at the Student Center. Using an ATM at a different bank may cost additional fees.

The two main types of bank accounts are:

  • Checking Account: Allows checks to be written for purchases and for paying bills.
  • Savings Account: Offers a place to keep your money and earn interest.

Some checking accounts also pay interest. Most people pay their bills online or with checks. Cash should NEVER be sent in the mail to pay for a bill or for any other reason.

Opening a Bank Account
To open an account at most banks you will need one or two valid forms of identification and a local postal address to receive mail. A passport and a UC San Diego identification card are usually sufficient. At least $25 is usually required to open an account, and there will be a monthly service charge for the account unless a “minimum balance requirement” (as much as $500 or higher) is maintained. There will also be a charge to have checks printed. Banks often have “hidden” fees so be sure to inquire about all possible fees. Not all banks require a US Social Security number to open an account, however, bank services may be limited (no online banking etc.) if you do not have a Social Security number.

Below is a list of banks and credit unions located on-campus or near UC San Diego:

Transferring funds from your home country

Full-service banks with international banking capabilities sell international money orders and receive deposits from banks outside of the USA. The best way to transfer funds from your country of origin to the United States is by electronic wire transfer directly from bank-to-bank. This method allows immediate credit and use of the money. Other methods of obtaining funds from abroad (example: money order, checks, etc.) will cause a delay of two weeks or longer in availability of funds.

Cell Phone Service

In order to activate cellular phone service in the United States, it is helpful for customers to have a valid Social Security number and established credit history. Customers without a Social Security number and credit history may still activate service but may have to pay a security deposit at the time of application.

Major US cell phone service providers:

  • Verizon Wireless
  • T-Mobile
  • AT&T
    • AT&T now offers waived deposits for International Students! Qualify for up to 3 waived deposits per qualified student, plus waived activation fees and a monthly discount for qualified plans! Click on the flyer for the program overview and for contact info, or visit the retail store right off campus. AT&T will be on site to support your needs during the international student orientation. (flyer)  

  • Sprint

Housing Assistance

Contact the UC San Diego Off-Campus Housing Office if you need assistance finding off-campus housing. It is located in Student Center Building A, Suite 200. You can also visit the Off-Campus Housing Office website to access an online database of available housing listings.

The International Center website also provides information regarding local host family programs, on-campus housing, short-term housing, and off-campus housing options.

Health Insurance

International students at UC San Diego are required to buy health insurance coverage. You will be billed for the UC San Diego health insurance policy each quarter (3-month period). Your UC San Diego insurance policy will begin on the first day of the quarter.  

If you arrive in the United States prior to the start of SHIP coverage or plan to remain after SHIP coverage ends, plan to have your own travel insurance coverage up to the date of SHIP coverage start and/or after coverage ends. International students registered to attend International Student Orientation will automatically have their SHIP coverage updated by UC San Diego to start on September 21, 2015. There will be no additional fee for early start of SHIP coverage for students registered to attend International Student Orientation.

We also strongly recommend that you buy additional health insurance coverage for family members (spouse and children) who accompany you to the United States. Remember that the U.S. government requires health insurance for all J-1s and J-2 dependents while in the United States.

Learn more about UC San Diego's Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).

Tuberculosis Screening

The California Department of Public Health recommends that all incoming college students be assessed for their risk of developing Tuberculosis (TB). Therefore, effective Fall 2010, all incoming students will be required to complete a Tuberculosis Screening Questionnaire prior to starting classes.

Tuberculosis is a serious contagious disease spread in the air from person to person that can be passed on to others before a person knows they are infected. Most people who have been infected with TB bacteria have latent, or inactive, disease and are not contagious. They can, however, develop active disease in the future unless they take a course of preventive treatment. Active TB disease causes serious illness and must be treated with long courses of antibiotics.

Fill out the online Tuberculosis Screening Questionnaire. You will need to sign on using your UCSD Personal ID Number (PID) and password. This will take you to the Student Health Service Online Services page. Go to Forms in the left column, then scroll down to the Tuberculosis Screening Questionnaire.

If you answer YES to any question, download the TB Assessment Form to be completed by a healthcare provider before you start classes. TB testing can be done either at Student Health Services for a fee or by an outside health care provider, who must then submit the TB Assessment Form to SHS. 

DEADLINE: The Tuberculosis Screening Questionnaire (and TB Assessment Form, if required) should be received by SHS prior to the start of classes. If not completed and submitted prior to the start of classes, a hold will be placed in your Tritonlink record, preventing you from adding or dropping classes.

For more information about TB and TB testing, visit:

Read Student Health Service's TB FAQs (PDF) to review the most commonly asked questions.

For more information, contact Student Health Services at (858) 822-1015 or (858) 822-5382 or email studenthealth@ucsd.edu.

Campus Tours

UC San Diego offers tours of the campus Monday through Saturday at 11:00 a.m., excluding holiday weekends. Additional tour times are available in the summer and spring break. For more information, visit the Triton Center in the Student Services complex on campus and go to the tour reservation form.

Information for Families

The UC San Diego International Center welcomes the spouses and children of our new students and scholars and offers many programs for them including:

Two large volunteer organizations, the Friends of the International Center and the Oceanids, organize many of these activities.

The International Center can also provide assistance to meet your family’s needs such as:

  • Childcare options in the area.
  • Preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools in the area.
  • Opportunities in San Diego for recreation, sports, theater, and other cultural activities.
  • Volunteer opportunities at UC San Diego and the local community.

If you have any questions, please contact the International Center.

Get Involved

The Center for Student Involvement encourages and facilitates student involvement in student organizations, campuswide events, leadership and service opportunities.

The Center is committed to providing developmental opportunities for all UCSD students and challenges them to become empowered, motivated and experienced leaders and citizens through a comprehensive co-curricular experience.

Explore the Center for Student Involvement Website to learn more about student organizations and see how you can get involved.

For more information, see International Programs.

Contact Us

International Students & Programs Office (ISPO)
Phone: (858) 534-3730
Email: Visit our Contact Us page

Monday through Friday
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.